Spiritual Growth through Trials

September/October 20162016Esmall

Precious Promises to Help in Trials

Spiritual Growth through Trials 

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).1

Tom Gilbert

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There are those who believe that God intends for Christians to have a life of ease and prosperity. If that were the case, He would have been a miserable failure. The reality is that those who follow the teachings of his Son seem to have more than their share of difficult experiences in life.

On the night that he was betrayed, Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He gave his disciples that encouragement — that he has overcome the world.

That night Jesus had the whole weight of the world’s trouble on his shoulders, and foretold that even those to whom he was speaking would abandon him that night. The source of his consolation was in knowing that his Father was with him. “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (John 16:32).

Just from these statements, we, as his disciples, have two great sources of comfort in our trials — the knowledge that our Master has overcome the challenges this world presents, and the knowledge that our Heavenly Father is spiritually present with us in our lives.

The Purpose of Trials

Why does the all-powerful God of the universe allow his spiritual children to experience trials and difficulties in life? Understanding the reason is an important first step in successfully enduring those experiences.


(1) All scripture quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

The Bible tells us that God has a plan to bring the whole creation together and back into harmony with Him, by uniting them under His son Jesus Christ. To “bring all creation together … with Christ as head” (Ephesians 1:10 GNB), God is presently calling, testing, and selecting a group of people, “the church … whose names are written in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23).

These members of the human race are invited to lead a life patterned after Jesus and devote themselves to the same purpose for which he came to earth — the restoration of the human race to perfection and harmony with their Creator. This course of life prepares these individuals to work with Christ during his Millennial Kingdom, to assist each member of the human race in transforming their lives and to make them worthy of everlasting life.

God knew that people who overcome trials and difficulties are best equipped to assist others to overcome similar trials, difficulties, challenges, and temptations. Consequently, God, seeing the end from the beginning, calls individuals to rise above, and largely overcome, the selfish tendencies of their human natures and the evil influences which pervade our world. If we respond to that call, this course of life will lead us through many trials during our earthly lifetimes. It will also teach us to put our trust in the One who is always faithful.

Promises of Help and Reassurance

The scriptures offer us comfort, guidance, and encouragement. Jesus promised his disciples that we would not be left alone in this world. He promised that his Father would send a Comforter, or Counselor, in his place — the holy Spirit. Jesus said that he would give us his peace, and encouraged us to not be afraid. “But the Counsellor, the holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:26-27).

Through the Apostle Paul, we are told not to be surprised by difficult experiences — even persecution — that we will encounter in life as disciples of Jesus. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

We should never feel abandoned by God because of the difficult circumstances of our lives. That He allows us to experience these things and helps us through them is actually proof that He loves us and is directing our spiritual growth into the image of His Son, just as our earthly parents directed and disciplined us as we grew up.

“And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.’ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:5-11).

Sometimes we may look at our difficult circumstances in life and notice that we have the same difficulties as everyone else, including those who have no faith in God. This may perplex us. We may think that God should protect us from being caught in the same troubles as those who do not honor him at all. However, if the purpose of our experiences is, in part, to train us to help others overcome sin, it appears that, in His wisdom, God allows us to go through the same circumstances. The precious promise He makes to us as his spiritual children is that, along with the trial, He will provide us a way to endure it and escape from falling into any sin.

“Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out” (1 Corinthians 10:13 GNB).

Even despite this very precious promise, in very difficult trials we may sometimes be tempted to question God’s judgment about what we are able to bear. There is a saying which reads: “I know God will not give me anything I cannot handle — I just wish he did not trust me so much.” It seems clear that God allows very hard trials to test his spiritual children’s faithfulness and reliance on Him, because the hardest trials usually bring the greatest spiritual growth.

We should rejoice at what the Lord allows us to experience, however difficult. The Apostle James encouraged us to rejoice in our trials because the outcome is spiritual growth — a stronger Christian character, if we are victorious in the trial. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

The Apostle Peter also tells us to rejoice in trials and not be surprised by the fact that God allows us to go through even fiery trials. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13 KJV).

Another encouraging promise regarding our trials is found in Romans 8:18 (Phillips): “In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us.” The Apostle Paul repeats this point in 2 Corinthians 4:17 (Phillips): “These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain.”

Imagine the incomparable joy of working alongside Christ, healing the physical, mental, and spiritual wounds of mankind and restoring them to harmony with their Creator! What joy it will be to help mankind have the law of God written in their hearts under the arrangement of the New Covenant! (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Encouragement Even When We Fail in Trials

Another precious promise is that when we stumble in our trials, the Lord Jesus is always in the presence of His Father to intercede and advocate for us. “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:33- 34). “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25). “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father in our defence — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).

Sometimes, when we stumble in our trials, we can become spiritually discouraged. The Apostle John encourages us to not be downcast. He tells us that even if in our hearts we feel we are a failure, God sees us from a higher perspective.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us” (1 John 3:18-23).

The scriptures encourage us to be bold and confident in our relationship with the Heavenly Father. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Victory

The scriptures give ample promises of God’s unfailing support and protection of his spiritual children. “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:31-33). “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

The scriptures promise us that if we are victorious in the trials of life, our Heavenly Father will give us the gift of immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53-54), the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) — the crown of life — not for our own glory, but for His. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12, Berean Study Bible). The divine nature will equip us with the power to help transform the lives of others during Christ’s Millennial Kingdom and for work in the ages to come. What greater joy could any of us hope for? What greater motivation could there be to persevere in the difficulties of life than to bring glory to God and bless the world of mankind and all of creation?

Psalm 91

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

9 If you make the Most High your dwelling — even the LORD, who is my refuge — 10 then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

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